(CN) – Even though producers allegedly tried to portray him as a “huckster” and “thug,” notorious boxing promoter Don King could not prove that an ESPN special about his career was made to harm him, the Florida Court of Appeals ruled.
King, who has promoted the biggest names in modern boxing, sued ESPN and its parent company the Walt Disney Company in 2005 based on a “SportsCentury” special about his life and career that aired in 2001.
He specifically pointed to five statements made in the special by former colleagues implying, among other things, that King cheated a hospital out of more than $80,000 and threatened to have his critics killed.
King pointed to notes on the show’s script where producers allegedly wrote that the program should portray him as “more evil,” “greedy,” and “engaging in criminal activities.”
Judge Dorian Damoorgian was unconvinced. While ESPN may have portrayed him in a negative light, “nothing in the record shows that ESPN purposely made false statements about King in order to bolster the theme of the program or to inflict harm on [him].”
In order to prevail on a defamation claim, King must show that someone not only lied, but had intent to harm. “ESPN was not required to present positive statements about King to balance any negative statements, or to search until it found someone who would defend King,” Damoorgian wrote, affirming the lower court’s decision.
King has spent millions defending himself in court over the past four decades for fraud, tax evasion and other charges.
Muhammad Ali, Lennox Lewis and others have sued King for alleged underpayment. In 1992, he took the fifth during a Senate investigation about his possible mob connections.
In a documentary about King’s former client Mike Tyson, the boxer called his former promoter “wretched,” “slimy,” and that “he would kill his own mother for a dollar.”
“Don King is a hip exploiter, an intelligent flesh peddler,” wrote biographer Jack Newfield, one of the people King allegedly threatened. “He knows which fighters to steal, how to exploit anyone’s vice, vanity or insecurity and make a profit for himself.”